The most popular colour of precious metals for engagement and wedding rings is white, but there are a range of options to choose from and it can sometimes be difficult to work out which metal is right for you. From white gold or silver to platinum or palladium, in this article we explain the range of metals on offer and the advantages and disadvantages of each choice.
Most white metals have a bright ‘silver’ colour and can look very similar when new. However, each will wear differently and they will look less alike over time. Silver itself is generally regarded as too soft for bridal jewellery that is likely to be worn every day, especially if the piece is set with diamonds. It can look worn after only a brief period of wear and the settings of any stones may wear out quite quickly. The most affordable of the precious metals, silver is used extensively for dress jewellery, but more durable alternatives such as white gold or platinum are advisable for your precious bridal pieces.
Whenever gold is used for jewellery it is alloyed with other metals to increase its strength and malleability; pure gold is simply too soft. 9ct gold is made from 9 parts gold with 15 parts other metals, while 18ct gold is made from 18 parts gold to 6 parts other metals. The alloying process is also used to alter the colour of the metal, creating classic yellow, modern white or stylish rose gold. Traditionally nickel was used extensively to lighten the colour and increase the strength of white gold, but allergy concerns mean that today metals such as silver, zinc or palladium are more commonly used. These metals don’t lighten the colour quite as well, so modern white gold jewellery is routinely rhodium plated to produce a bright white surface. The ‘natural’ colour beneath this is a pale greyish-yellow, and this begins to show through once a ring has been worn for a while. This can be observed in the image below where the ring on the left is rhodium-plated and the ring on the right is 9ct white gold without rhodium plating.
Increasing the proportion of palladium in the alloy can improve the whiteness of the colour but this does increase cost and is therefore more common in 18ct white gold, although the alloy varies with different manufacturers. This is one of the reasons why it is impossible to guarantee exactly how long the rhodium plating will last on a white gold ring; it depends on many variables such as the colour of the alloy, activities undertaken while the ring is being worn and the wearer’s skin type. You can help your rhodium plating last longer by removing your rings for activities such as housework or going to the gym and by avoiding contact with cosmetics or soaps, especially hand sanitiser gels. It is also possible to have your ring polished and rhodium-plated periodically to restore the initial bright white shine.
Unlike white gold, platinum and palladium are naturally white metals. However, although they do not acquire a yellow tint as they wear, they do dull and can look somewhat grey after a while: this can be remedied by having the ring polished. Both these metals are most commonly available with a fineness of ‘950’ meaning that the alloy is composed of 95% pure platinum or palladium; this can be helpful if you have sensitive skin.
Platinum is rarer and denser than palladium and platinum rings often feel significantly heavier than similar designs in other metals. It is also a durable material making it particularly practical for fine detail such as settings where it provides additional strength. Platinum is often thought of as a desirable but expensive option and although it has recently fallen in price it is still the costliest of the precious metals. The high density of the material plays a large part in this as precious metal items are generally priced by weight.
Palladium is less well-known than white gold or platinum, but it is now quite well-established in the jewellery industry. It is most popular for wedding bands, especially for larger rings where platinum can become increasingly expensive. It was introduced as a more affordable alternative to platinum, offering similar colour and wear but in a less expensive material. Recently the cost of palladium has risen substantially but it is still a practical alternative on weightier pieces.
Our team of jewellers will be happy to answer your questions and share our decades of experience to help you make an informed choice for your most precious pieces of jewellery. We also have a selection of new and worn rings in our showroom enabling you to view and compare the different metals. Just pop in to our showroom, there’s no need to make an appointment.